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November 8, 2011 > San Diego, Sacramento left out of rail system

San Diego, Sacramento left out of rail system

By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP), Nov 01 - The $98 billion price tag of the first phase of California's high-speed rail system would not be enough to link two key cities - San Diego and Sacramento - to the line.

The initial phase of California's proposed high-speed rail system would stretch from San Francisco to Anaheim, a plan that was put before voters in 2008, when they approved $9 billion in bond funding.

Connections to Sacramento, which draws lobbyists, interest groups and others from throughout the state, and San Diego, California's second most-populous city, are included in a second phase of the planned high-speed rail system.

Just when those connections might be made is anyone's guess. If approved by the Legislature, the first phase would not be completed until 2033, at the earliest.

The situation left some officials in San Diego seething on Tuesday, when the rail system's business plan was released.

The city has 1.3 million people and is a major tourism destination. Interstate 5 is choked daily with motorists going back and forth to Orange County and the Los Angeles area.

``It's like saying you're not going to be part of the state, the second-largest county in the state,'' San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts said.

Roberts also said he was concerned that costs will swell even beyond the latest projection, which was more than double the amount pitched to voters in 2008.

``If this were a private venture, I would guarantee you the company would say this has gone past the point of making any sense,'' he said.

Jerome Stocks, chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments and deputy mayor of suburban Encinitas, questioned whether the cost was justified. Excluding the San Diego region is ludicrous, he said.

``If you want mass transit that works, you put it where the people are,'' he said.

Some Democratic lawmakers representing Sacramento said they were not upset by the exclusion of that city because it has never been included in the first phase of the rail line.

A highly popular Amtrak route - the Capitol Corridor - already carries weekday commuters and weekend travelers between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.

Amtrak also offers service from the capital to Fresno and Merced, giving Sacramento-area residents an option for linking to the high-speed rail line if it's built, said Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Traditional rail service also is available between San Diego and Los Angeles, he said.

Assemblyman Roger Dickenson, D-Sacramento, said high-speed rail is a wise investment for the state and said his support would not change even though Sacramento will not be included in the first phase.

``I would love it to be in phase one, but nonetheless I believe it is still worthwhile, even at this higher cost,'' he said.

He later added, ``The sooner we can get it to Sacramento, the better.''

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Associated Press writers Don Thompson and Tom Verdin in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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